Weno Iti, the Te Kūwaha Manager (NIWA Māori Development Centre) and NIWA's Maori development officer, Apanui Skipper, describe their views on mātauranga Māori. While they agree that mātauranga Māori is Māori knowledge – a way of knowing – they appreciate that all Māori are different and have knowledge pertaining to different things depending on where they live and how they were brought up.
Mātauranga Māori is, is I believe, the knowledge of the Māori. And in a lot of cases, you have to look at what the mātauranga is about because some mātauranga is not for the common person. And I believe that the mātauranga they speak about, especially to do with this toolkit, it was about what that kaumātua knew about the different areas within the local harbour. One kaumātua spoke about saying a karakia before they got on the boat to go anywhere. Or looking at the sea and seeing that whales had come into the harbour. For him, that meant that he could go out into the ocean and fish, because he said the whales had chased the fish out to sea so it was no use fishing in the harbour. And it was those kinds of signs that I believe was the mātauranga Māori that we talk about.
It was something that happened during their time. Our rangatahi or our younger children wouldn’t see that kind of thing happening so they wouldn’t know how to handle that. So they’re looking at science as being the other type of knowledge that would say, OK, that happened because of this, which is not what Māori would see in science – they would see a collection of stories gathered over many years.
Mātauranga Māori just means Māori knowledge, it’s not a traditional concept. Māori might frame it in some other words – not mātauranga Māori.
There’s no general sort of thing in regards to Māori because we’re all different. Some are located on the coast, so they have knowledge that’s pertaining to the sea and the ocean. Some are located along the rivers, so they have an in-depth knowledge and understanding around the river – the seasonal changes that are attached to that and associated with that. Some other ones are up in the mountains. You just ask those ones from up in Tūhoe, the ones who are up in the bush – that’s probably the reason why they’re still one of the keepers of te reo Māori, the depth of knowledge around the forest.
So when we’re talking about mātauranga Māori, we’re talking about tribal experts, ones that were brought up with experts within the tribe, within the families, within subtribes. They mixed and mingled with the most expert minds within the community to ensure that you had those experts within your people.
In the last 30 years especially, there’s been a growing shift within mainstream science looking for other ways of knowing. And I’m not saying that indigenous people know everything either, but what they do know, they’ve got an in-depth knowledge about their little patch of paradise in the world. And science are very interested in that knowing – about what they do know and these different ways of knowing.
Apanui Skipper, Weno Iti, Andrew Swales and Raiha Tuahine, NIWA
Waipapa Marae, Kāwhia
Alastair Jamieson/Wild Earth Media, NIWA
Landcare Research/Manaaki Whenua
Dr Shaun Ogilvie, Dr Dave Taylor, Cawthron